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Title: Programmable automation and employment practices in Brazilian industry.
Author: Carvalho, Ruy de Quadros.
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 1993
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This thesis examines the labour implications of the diffusion of programmable automation (microelectronics-based automation) in Brazilian industry. The objective of the thesis is to investigate whether the new technology is contributing to the superseding of TayloristlFordist forms of work organisation and to the emergence of new employment practices. A hypothesis is formulated, in Part One, which takes into account the predominant view in the literature addressing the specific role of the new technology in the transformation of work. The core of the hypothesis is that, in the branches of manufacturing industry which are adopting programmable automation, labour utilisation and work organisation tend to converge towards a pattern which was inaugurated by highly automated, continuous-flow process industries. Hence it is called the convergence hypothesis, in this thesis. To test the pertinence of the convergence hypothesis for the case of Brazilian industry is the major undertaking of the thesis. The research strategy adopted is to examine and compare the two poles of the hypothesis. Thus, two sectoral studies are carried out: one, in the Brazilian car industry, and the other, in the Brazilian petrochemical industry. The main sources are primary data collected in car and petrochemical firms and statistics produced by the Brazilian government. Part Two of the thesis presents the findings of research, as well as the lessons drawn from the case studies. The main conclusion of the thesis is that convergence has not occurred in the Brazilian case. In Brazil, the diffusion of programmable automation has been associated with the continuation of major intersectoral differences in the use of labour. Given the selectivity of the diffusion of programmable automation in the car industry, firms continue to rely heavily on the work of semi-skilled workers and Fordist work organisation is still the predominant paradigm. This research shows the reproduction of the gap between a small group of skilled workers and a majority of semi-skilled workers. As regards wages, careers and labour turnover policies, car companies have blended the introduction of new policies with the continuation of some of the "old style" policies. This situation is contrasted with that found in the petrochemical industry, which is based on a type of technology which entails a less pronounced division of labour. There, a high level of automation implies that the bulk of employment is indirect. This research found a more homogeneous workforce in the petrochemical industry: the majority of workers are skilled and possess a high educational background, by Brazilian standards. However, managements' concern with control of labour continues to mark their choices of work organisation, job design and industrial relations, in both industrial sectors. This is in conflict with managements' declared interest in promoting workers' involvement with the innovation and quality related objectives of firms. Such contradictory practices, as much as selective automation, are part of a defensive modernisation, which is the ad hoc way in which most of the firms studied reacted to the new challenges, under worsening economic crisis.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Labour studies